“I begin to wonder if white is the color of things to be worshipped in this world. If it’s the only color to be worshipped in this world.”Echo Brown, Black Girl Unlimited
Publication year: 2020
Page count: 304
Rating: 4.5 stars
Rep: Black MC/author, queer side characters, depression
TW: rape, child sexual abuse, substance abuse, domestic violence, suicidal thoughts, death of a parent, trauma, overdose
Blurb (From GoodReads):
Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor. Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.
Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism—all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age.
Wow, this book definitely took me by surprise. I mentioned earlier this week, when I picked up a book about a teenage wizard, I was expecting something along the lines of Wizards of Waverly Place, not this. But this was definitely more impactful than I could have ever imagined and I’m so happy I took the time to read it, even though it wasn’t what I was expecting.
This is an autobiographical story told in the form of a fictional YA novel. Echo Brown is very open and vulnerable, telling her story to the whole world. She doesn’t leave out the messy or “embarrassing” parts, but rather fully discloses her teenage self. Growing up in the east side of Cleveland, Ohio, she recounts her life starting at the age of 6, until graduating high school. This includes details such as parents with crack-cocaine addictions, watching her best friend becoming paralyzed, exploring her sexuality, finding out what she believes in, and not fitting in at her rich, white high school.
Along with this, she weaves in a fantastical element, making her and her mother wizards. Being a wizard is dangerous in this world, and her mother is determined to protect Echo from this. However, no matter what Echo’s mother does, she cannot help but feel the power growing inside her, urging her to try to perform miracles. Although I liked the wizard aspect, it wasn’t thoroughly explained and I was a bit confused throughout the novel. Because of that, it kind of distracted me from the main plot of the story. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the magical element wouldn’t have been added, even though it was a neat touch.
Even though this book was so heavy and difficult to read, it definitely left a message of hope. Echo is telling her readers that even though you may be in the worst possible situation, there is a way to get out. Seeking help is okay. This message was so powerful, considering everything that happens in the course of Echo’s life and this novel.
I’m not quite sure what else to say about this book, since I have never read anything like it before. It was released a few months ago but I haven’t seen much buzz about it, so I highly suggest that you all pick it up for yourselves!